National Museum of American History Receives Phil Lesh’s “Eye of Horus” Bass Guitar

July 14, 2011

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History has acquired the “Eye of Horus” bass guitar from Phillip “Phil” Lesh, formerly of the Grateful Dead. The bassist purchased the handmade instrument in 2009 and used it extensively, crediting the guitar with having taught him to play in a different style. The modern, state-of-the-art bass will be preserved as part of the museum’s extensive and diverse collection of instruments, including Prince’s and Eddie Van Halen’s guitars.

Lesh came across German master instrument-maker Jens Ritter’s work online and was struck by the design of his custom instruments. After meeting Ritter, he commissioned an electric bass guitar for his own use. The “Eye of Horus” is one of a limited edition of 10 bass guitars and is a Jupiter-style six-string with a body made out of mahogany and neck made out of maple. The neck also features a silver Egyptian-inlay design and blue LED lights on the front and side.

Lesh is a noted American musician and a founding member of the pioneering rock group the Grateful Dead, for whom he played bass guitar throughout the band’s 30-year career. After the group disbanded in 1995, Lesh has continued the “jam-band” tradition begun by the Grateful Dead with his own band, Phil Lesh and Friends, and recently with the group Furthur formed together with Grateful Dead band-mate Bob Weir.

The National Museum of American History collects, preserves and displays American heritage in the areas of social, political, cultural, scientific and military history. To learn more about the museum, visit For Smithsonian information, the public may call (202) 633-1000, (202) 633-5285 (TTY).